Next-Step Integration of Internet into the Classroom: Design Tools and WebQuests

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According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education, the number of public school classrooms having access to the Internet/World Wide Web nearly doubled from 1997 to 1998, from 27% to 51% (Classroom Internet Access, 1999). No doubt that increase is due largely to e-rate legislation, which has allowed school districts to buy Internet access at very low rates. The concern of interested faculty at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU), which serves a largely rural/poor population of southeastern Oklahoma, has been on how to capitalize on Internet technology and e-rate access.

While poor/rural schools probably stand as much or more to gain from Internet access as any other educational identity (Internet Access, 1999), many teacher educators at SOSU understate the case for using Internet, and other forms of technology as well, in the classroom. For example, several faculty members complained that the use of the Internet, more often than not reduces the direct involvement of the teacher in fostering classroom learning. To focus on the Internet as a specialized tool for research or information is likewise inadequate.  Classrooms with Internet access should include the many elements of the regular classroom in a transformed, technology-based format. As stated here, "Effective integration of new technology requires an understanding of the whole educational process, and a critical examination of its functions (Thomas, Carswell, Price, and Petre 1998)."

Two Integration Formats

The challenge of keeping up with the rapid growth of Internet access in the public schools and preparing teachers to succeed and lead in the public schools prompted two professors of educational technology at SOSU to search for pedagogical methods that linked teacher and student activities for optimal learning, and which simultaneously tapped the unique potential of the Internet.  It was assumed that most preservice and inservice teachers already know the basics of using web browsers, search engines, and e-mail, and while that assumption met with a few exceptions, it proved true most of the time. The professors determined the desired pedagogical methods should meet the following specified criteria:

Of course, there exists an ongoing production of tools, formats, and strategies for the use of the Internet in the K-12 curriculum, but for the present, the two chosen as exemplary are Design Tools and WebQuests. Dr. Judi Harris, of the University of Texas at Austin, developed the Design Tools concept while Dr. Bernie Dodge of San Diego State University first developed WebQuests. Both preservice and inservice teachers need at least these two formats for integrating the Internet into the classroom curriculum and their teaching repertoire as basic components for achieving worthwhile learning. 

Design Tools

Dr. Judi Harris has been developing the concept of Design Tools for several years (Harris, 1998a, 1998b), as an overarching concept to include different types of telecomputing activities that could be used by teachers and students from diverse locations, subject areas, and grade levels, to participate and interact in curriculum related, Internet activities. The Design Tools are divided into three main categories, Interpersonal Exchanges, Information Collection and Analysis, and Problem Solving. The main categories are further subdivided in a nonexclusive listing as follows:

Sites related to Design Tools include, Virtual Architecture Web Home (see: and Curriculum-Based K-12 Telecollaborative Projects, Organized by Activity Structures (see:

The concept of Design Tools, like WebQuests, was introduced to preservice teachers in an undergraduate course, EDUC 3313, Integration of Technology into the Curriculum and into a graduate level course, EDUC 5133/43, Fundamentals of Curriculum Development. Since January of 1998, students have completed a related module of instruction with two requirements: a Design Tools Log and a Design Tools Project. The Design Tools Log requires students to construct a journal of their visits to various telecomputing activity web sites which define and give examples of telecomputing projects for use in real classroom settings. The I-Log must be prefaced with an original introduction to the topic of Design Tools followed by a tour of six Design Tools subcategories, e.g., Keypals, Impersonations, Telefieldtrips, Social Action Projects, two each from the respective main categories. After students describe existing projects that represent subcategories, they are required to create a detailed application of a collaborative, telecomputing activity for their future or existing classroom assignment.

The second component of the Design Tools module requires undergraduate students to complete a collaborative thematic unit in teams of three or four. Each unit must focus on a central topic idea that binds together distinct lesson plans from each participant. The interrelationships between the various lesson plans and the basis for the unit are explained in a one-page, unit rationale. Each lesson plan must include a telecomputing activity taken from the Design Tools motif. Finally, the group works together to present a synopsis of their Thematic Unit via a PowerPoint presentation to the class.  While clinical in nature, this project helps students bridge the gap from non-Internet classroom activity to Internet-based classroom activity.

For the graduate students who are inservice teachers, the second component of the Design Tools module of instruction has triggered participation in telecomputing activities. One student instituted a Global Classrooms project that linked his high school social studies class in rural Oklahoma with a similar class in Argentina. Another student was able to join a Telecomputing Activity related to Earth Day for her high school chemistry students in a venture of Telepresent Problem Solving. The initial stages of using Design Tools have primarily been limited to using existing tools as participants, but with upcoming increases in curriculum offerings, students will soon be designing and using their own telecomputing activities in original collaborations.


The more familiar WebQuests are defined by their creator as, "an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet." (Dodge, 1997, p.1)  WebQuests are usually identified as short-term or long-term. Short-term WebQuests maintain instructional goals related to knowledge acquisition and integration and can be completed in one to three class periods. Long-term WebQuests have the instructional goal of extending and refining knowledge and require learners to analyze, transform and demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of a focus topic that is parlayed into a creative project. The long-term WebQuests require a week to a month of classroom time. The critical attributes in a typical WebQuest include:

    1. an introduction/rationale;
    2. a motivating task for students to accomplish,
    3. hyperlinks of relevant information sources for completing the task,
    4. a step-by-step description of the process for students to follow,
    5. general guidelines for doing the Quest; and
    6. a conclusion (Dodge, 1997).

WebQuests, because of their simpler structure and authoring demands, have become a staple for both undergraduate and graduate students in three courses of our teacher education curriculum, one such course being taught exclusively on the World Wide Web.  The WebQuest format is introduced in a computer lab with a tour of related web sites projected on center stage.  Students are then shone a “best example” of a WebQuest, then required to construct their own for students from either their present or future classrooms.  WebQuests not only give the preservice/inservice teachers a simple but effective tool for integrating Internet into their teaching and classroom curriculum, but also allow them to use Microsoft PowerPoint, HyperStudio, or free, web-page services on the Internet to share their products with their classmates.  So far, hundreds of WebQuests have been produced for every subject and grade level in the public school curriculum, leaving students enthusiastic about the prospect of having a “way” to fully incorporate Internet-inclusive learning in future or existing classroom assignments.

When designing WebQuests, one instructional goal is that the inservice/preservice teachers select sites for inclusion in their WebQuest projects based upon criteria for evaluation of World Wide Web (WWW) resources studied in class.  A WebQuest also can be viewed as a way to filter objectionable material since students are directed to resources on the WWW that teachers have evaluated and selected.  A real advantage of WebQuests is the substantial support network that already exists on the World Wide Web. Some of the best sites include: The WebQuest Page (see:, and WebQuests for Learning (see:


As Dr. Harris states, “We must begin to think seriously about and plan carefully for how to use Internet resources in productive, instructive ways (Harris, 1998b, p. vii.)  Two of the most promising venues for transforming regular classroom activities into Internet-based learning of worthwhile effect and significance are Design Tools and WebQuests. Such activities represent a step forward in realizing the fascinating educational potential of the Internet.


Classroom Internet access nearly doubles and the e-rate will help. (1999, April). Community Update(66), 6.

Dodge, B. (1997). Some thoughts about webquests. Retrieved April 16, 1999, from the World Wide Web:

Harris, J. (1998a). Virtual architecture: Designing and directing curriculum-based Telecomputing. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

Harris, J. (1998b). Design tools for the Internet-supported classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Internet access.  National Center for Education Statistics.  Retrieved July 12, 1999 from the World Wide Web:

Thomas, P., Carswell, L., Price, B., & Petre, M. (1998). A holistic approach to supporting distance learning using the Internet: Transformation, not translation. The British Journal of Educational Technology, 29(2), 149-161.

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